There are dozens of therapy jokes out there. From the, “…and how does that make you feel?” sentiment to the vague answers that therapists sometimes give, we’ve heard most of them. However, one that we’re sure everyone has heard is something along the lines of, “Hmm, yeah, sounds like this goes back to a bad relationship with your mother in your childhood.” To which the client would respond something along the lines of, “How does my fear of spiders have anything to do with my mother?” and so on.
While parental relationships causing problems in your adult life can sometimes be a little far-fetched, there are times when your childhood relationships or other events in your childhood can have an extremely negative impact on your life. You may have no idea that this is the reason behind your depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress syndrome, but the potential is absolutely there. This brings us to the ACEs study.
What is the ACEs Study?
The ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) study began in the mid-1990’s and is ongoing today for long-term follow-ups. It is one of the largest research study samples ever utilized. Kaiser Permanente began this research after finding that the dropout rate of their obesity clinic was nearly 50%. When surveying the dropouts, they discovered that an overwhelming majority of these individuals had suffered trauma, such as sexual assault or emotional abuse, when they were children. What this research suggests is that childhood traumas and experiences impact social and mental health as these children grow up.
As a result of these findings, Kaiser Permanente began the ACEs study, covering a variety of childhood traumas. Some of the traumatic experiences they surveyed tvolunteer patient base about included:
- Household mental illness
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Parental divorce
- Incarcerated household member
What the ACEs Study Found
Sadly, this study found that childhood trauma is incredibly common. In fact, over 28% of the sample surveyed admitted that they had been a victim of physical abuse. An additional 21% reported sexual abuse. Perhaps more worrisome is that nearly 90% of the patients who reported experiencing childhood traumas reported more than one.
According to the CDC, these adverse childhood life experiences can lead to a variety of issues, including chronic health problems, lower potential threshold?? and even early death. Adults who suffer childhood trauma also have a higher risk for developing alcoholism and drug addictions, which only increases physical and mental health risks.
What it all comes down to is that the relationship with your family and others in your childhood can have a significant impact on your adult life. Developing mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD is a common issue for individuals who report adverse childhood experiences. Physical health can also suffer from issues like heart attack and chronic emphysema being reported. Repressing these experiences or choosing not to deal with them can make these problems worse.
Don’t be surprised if your therapist asks you about your childhood. We’re genuinely trying to help and discover if there’s a root issue that we can work through with you. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above or feel that a childhood trauma may be affecting your life, reach out to CBT Baltimore. We can help.